At least 30 people were killed in a suicide car bomb blast at a polling station in northwestern Pakistan yesterday, during a by-election for a provincial assembly seat, police said.
“The death toll has reached to 30. It could rise further,” Behraman Khan, head of the police station near the Buner town, where the blast took place, said by telephone. “It was a suicide attack.”
Khan said the attacker, who was apparently alone, is believed to have driven the car, parked it in front of the school where the polling station was set up and detonated the explosives while polling was underway.
The suicide bomber pretended to need help with his car before detonating the powerful explosion that destroyed the school where the polling station was located.
“The suicide attacker pulled his car outside the polling station, and asked people to push the vehicle, saying that it had broken down. His purpose was to gather the maximum people around the car. The moment people started pushing the car, he blew it up,” said Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the information minister of the North West Frontier Province.
He said the attack was a message to the world that: “It is not possible to hold a peaceful election in this country.”
It is the latest in a string of blasts in a region where security forces are battling al-Qaeda and Taliban-linked militants who have unleashed a wave of suicide bomb attacks and target killings in response to operations against them.
Another police official said four children were among the dead and their bodies were mutilated beyond recognition. Khan said around a dozen people were wounded.
The school building where the polling station was set up collapsed after the blast.
The incident took place near Buner, a remote town in North West Frontier Province near the Swat Valley where security forces have been fighting militants since last year.
In Swat, about 34 militants and two soldiers were killed in clashes on Saturday, military officials said. There was no independent verification of the casualty estimate.
The attack underscored concerns that militant violence near the Afghan border could escalate now that Pakistan is shifting troops away from the region toward India.
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